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A Kinder, Less Invasive Body Scanner?

One of the main concerns people have over those full-body scanners now being deployed is that they reveal too much—namely, a slightly fuzzy grayscale image of passengers’ naked bodies. Add to that concerns over whether or not the images are stored and saved, and the issue becomes a full-blown privacy nightmare.

Well, new software could largely silence concerns people have about the scanners’ invasiveness. The Boston Globe reports, “L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. and OSI Systems Inc.’s Rapiscan, which make the scanners for US airports, are delivering software upgrades that show a generic figure rather than an actual image of a passenger’s body parts. The new display would mark sections of a person’s body that need to be checked.”

So, rather than a ghostly image of your odds and ends, screeners are shown a computerized cartoon of a fully clothed person. Peter Kant, a Rapiscan executive vice president, said every passenger will “look like a guy wearing a baseball cap.”

The TSA plans to add the software to scanners as more airports get the devices, though testing is still required before then.

The need for any such software comes after outcry from the public and from privacy groups, which disapprove of what amounts to an involuntary strip search. The images created by full-body scanners certainly don’t create photo-quality images, but they don’t leave much to the imagination, either.

However, security officials have pressed for widespread scanner use, because the machines are effective at detecting non-metallic concealed items, namely bomb-making materials. The general consensus is that body scanners would have caught Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to bring down a Delta flight this past Christmas. The government ordered over 1,000 additional machines earlier this year.

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